Status: complete;;

Right Now

So What Does It Take to Start Over Again?

“Of course it is. Why wouldn’t it be?” Brianna narrows her eyes, peers closer at me. “Did you really think I’d say ‘Absolutely not, you’re never welcome here again, how dare you ask me that’?”

I shrug awkwardly and scratch at an itchy spot on my leg. “I mean, it’s been, what, nearly a month since you offered? I didn’t know if maybe you had other things to do that would mean I couldn’t come.”

“Oh, you dumb, dumb child. Look, Deej, no matter what you decide, I’m gonna support you a million percent, okay?”

“Thanks,” I mumble to my knees; my best friend giggles softly. “So, uh… how is everybody?”

She launches into telling me about how the guys are touring now, so the house is quiet and lonely; guilt tugs at my heartstrings when I remember I haven't responded to any texts from Harry or Niall since the night of the party, and I know there are plenty of them sitting unread in my inbox. I push myself to my feet, and Bri doesn't slow down in her speaking, even when I disappear from the frame. As she vents about the newbie at work, I scroll through my messages.

From: Harry Hey, hope you're doing okay. Louis told us something happened and that Bri is on her way to you. Please let me know if you're all right.
From: Harry Koty? It's been a few days, and none of us have heard from you. Bri said you're alive but not doing well. Is there anything I can do to help you?
From: Harry I'm getting really worried. Bri sent us photographic proof that you're still alive but I'd rather hear it from you. Please text me back?
From: Harry We're heading out on tour. Normally I would be ecstatic but I'm too concerned about you. Text me.

From: Niall Harry is driving me up the wall. Can you please message him back so he'll leave me alone?
From: Niall I'm joking. Kind of. But seriously. We're all really worried and would love to hear from you. Miss your face!!!

From: Maxalicious Heyyy. Why aren't you in class?
From: Maxalicious Wait, let me guess. Hungover? LOL. Don't worry. I'll let you borrow my notes.

From: Sonny-babe Hope ur feeling better! U looked like shiiiiit when u left the party so I kno u probably feel worse today lol.

“Are you even listening to me?” Brianna scolds, and I jerk my gaze up from my phone, smiling sheepishly. She rolls her eyes, but I can see the way her lips are twitching. “You bitch. Did you hear anything I said?”

“Uh, not past the idiot destroying the display case because he decided to play frisbee with a CD case.”

“That was, like, ten minutes ago, what the Hell, Deej?”

“Sorry, I was reading my texts. I haven’t really been keeping up with it,” I add on a mutter.

She sighs, blowing a stray lock of hair out of her eyes, and grins. “It’s okay. So when are you planning on coming?”

“I have no idea, to be honest. I figured I’d do the research and stuff tonight, figure out what the plan is from there.”

“Okay. Keep me updated. But I’d better get off here. I gotta get to work. But hey, Dakky?” I groan at the use of my childhood nickname - the one only she has ever used, even though it’s been literal years since she last called me that - and the smile she gives me isn’t nearly as innocent as she would like to believe. “I’m proud of you, you know that, right?”

We hang up a minute later, and I look around my bedroom, wonder how I’m going to tell my family about my plans. Eventually, I decide that can wait until later; I shuffle to the closet to grab a fresh change of clothes then make my way to the bathroom. I grimace at the stench of body odour as I pull my t-shirt over my head. I probably should have taken a shower yesterday. Or the day before. I make quick work of washing my hair and scrubbing my body; I feel at least five pounds lighter as I step out of the tub, and I hurry to dress in the leggings and black long-sleeved shirt I brought into the bathroom with me.

Once I have a load of laundry in the washing machine, I sigh heavily and flip down onto my bare mattress, tugging my laptop closer so I can bring up an internet window. I check my bank balance and compare it to the cost of a flight to the UK. It's gonna be tight, but I can definitely swing it. I bite my lip as I Google visa requirements to move to London, currency exchange rate. I know most of this research is unnecessary - I looked it all up when I went to visit Bri the first time - but it keeps my mind off the fact that I'm going to have to talk to my family. Soon.

Packing takes less time than I anticipated, even with how much I try to stretch the task. Finally, I roll the last pair of jeans around the T-shirt, socks, and underwear; I shove it into my suitcase with the rest of the nine outfits and four pairs of pyjamas, zip the case closed, and set it against the wall. Footstep cross the floor above me, and I draw in a steadying breath when I hear Anna’s voice. I know I can't put this off any longer.

My mom and sister are sitting at the dining table by the time I force myself up the stairs and into the kitchen. Mama smiles at me and holds up a box of cereal. I shake my head, lowering myself into the chair on her right.

“I… I'm sorry for how I've been acting lately,” I start shakily; Mama’s brows furrow, but I push on. If she speaks now, I'll lose all confidence. “I, okay, I know I should have been open with you both, tell you guys what was going on, but… I couldn’t. I barely wanted to admit anything to myself. I don’t want to talk about it right now, so, uh, please don’t make me?” My laugh is weak to my own ears. “But I’ve come to the decision that, well, I’m going to go back to Bri’s and, uh, basically figure myself out again.”

Anna’s grin is wide, victorious, proud. Mama, on the other hand, looks like she’s been slapped in the face with a fish; she gapes at me, and I squirm under the scrutiny. After a few minutes, she finds her voice.


“Because being here is just going to remind me of things I’d rather forget.”

“So you’re going to run off and be four thousand miles away from your family, all because you don’t like this town?”

“Mama, I’ll come back. I promise. I just, I need to get away for just a bit. I won’t be gone forever.”

Mama sighs, turns to look at Anna. “And you’re okay with this?”

“At least she’s telling us before disappearing,” my sister replies with a shrug.

“We’ll see what your dad has to say about this.”

My mother pushes herself to her feet and exits the kitchen without a backwards look. Anna reaches across the table, squeezes my hand in hers, and focuses on eating her breakfast. The clock on the wall ticks in the quiet, and I pick at my nails as I think about how my father might react to the news of me leaving again. At least this time, I won't be asking him for money, so maybe he won't be as upset as Mama is.

There aren't many people in the airport. Anna’s arm is looped in mine, her head bouncing against my shoulder with each step we take. Mama trails behind us as Daddy pushes the cart with my suitcase. Awkwardness wraps itself around me; I hadn't expected them all to come see me off, especially since everything is still so tense between us. My dad hadn’t flown off the handle after he found out, and that seems to have made my mother more distraught. I think she was hoping he'd convince me not to go. Anna has been more excited about my move than even I am, I think; every time we've been in the same room, she's told me various random facts about London, taken candid photos of me no matter what I was doing - even though I made her delete the picture of me in just a towel after my shower, distracted by the text I'd just gotten from Max wishing me the best.

My flight is called over the loudspeaker, the voice warped and scratchy. I bite my lip and turn toward my family. Mama sighs, and though her eyes are dark with worry and sadness, her arms are warm, tight, as they wrap around me. I sink into the embrace, hug her back just as tight. Dad hands me a card from his wallet and tells me it's just until I get on my feet. I tuck the credit card and paper with the information on it into my own wallet, let him sweep me into a bone-crushing hug, and then face Anna. She grins widely and puts her hands on my shoulders.

“I am so proud of you for doing this, Deej. Seriously. Have fun. Find yourself.”

I wave at my family as the attendant looks over my passport and boarding pass. Once both are handed back to me, I inhale slowly then let it out before stepping forward into the terminal. Finding my seat is easy enough; I sit, put my foot through the strap of my backpack and adjust the bag so it's between my legs, and settle in to wait as other fliers board and find their places. Though I know it's the same spiel as last time, I don't let my mind wander while the flight attendants give the safety speech. Thankfully, it doesn't drag on, and I grip my armrests tightly as the plane taxis down the tarmac and finally lifts off the ground.

... ... ... ...

The sky threatens rain, grey clouds and a gloomy chill in the air, and I exhale sharply, tug my jacket closer around me. The weather combined with the fact it's just after six in the morning makes for a miserable time spent standing on the front stoop. My knuckles already ache from knocking so many times, but I do it again anyway. This time, though, I hear someone shouting on the other side of the door. The voice comes closer, and to my immense surprise, Harry stands on the other side, his grumbling abruptly dying out as he stares at me. His face splits into a grin and, before I can blink, I'm dragged into a tight hug.

“What are you doing here?” he whispers against my neck, and I wiggle out of his arms.

“Bri, uh, offered to let me live with them for a while after…” I trail off, unsure of what to say; Harry’s lips pull down into a frown, but I ignore it, pushing on. “And I decided to take her up on it. So here I am!”

“Oh, Hell, get in here, you're soaked.”

“And very, very cold.”

He shuts the door behind us, and I push my suitcase to the side so we won’t trip on it before shrugging off my jacket. I follow him down the hall to the living room. He flops down onto the sofa, stretching out, and I roll my eyes when he pats the cushion next to him. Yawning with the exhaustion I've been ignoring, I lie down next to him; he pulls the throw blanket off the back of the couch, tosses it over us. We both shift around until my back is comfortably against his chest, our legs pressed together, and his arm under my head. I let out a trembling breath, yawn again, and slowly fall asleep as his warmth washes over me.
♠ ♠ ♠
title credit ready for change ben rector